The sky was turning pink and orange and purple again, it was her favourite time of day. As she made it to the top of her tree, she watched the colours swirl and kiss the clouds, always in awe of the beauty she got to witness every day.
Without fail, it came again as it did every evening. A sail gliding along the horizon, almost as if it was a hot air balloon rising over a mountain crest, popped into view and gracefully moved across the water ever so slowly.
Even with her sharp eyes, all she could see was the shape. Never could she make out who was on the boat, or even the true colour of it. She sat for almost an hour until finally, as it always did, the ship disappeared below the horizon again, leaving her to wonder.
Where does it come from? Where does it go? Questions that were never answered continued to nag in her brain. She dreamed of the day she headed out to sea to follow the ship, but knew the warnings from her tribe.
We don't know what is out there dear one, we know what is here, we know we are safe.
She began to itch, and her body became restless as these words echoed in her mind. Maybe she didn't care anymore to be safe, maybe she was willing to die to reach beyond that horizon and see the world where the ship lives. Everything was so quiet here, so much the same every day. She looked forward to their massive storms each season just for something exciting to witness.
Why do we stay here? Why don't we try? She pleaded with her elders for so long, but they would not budge no matter how much she grew, and yet without fail, she needed to see that ship every night as it blipped into her view if only for a moment a day. It was her beacon to a world that existed beyond her and her tribe. Something was out there and she wanted it, she didn't know what it was, but she knew it was there waiting for her.
Eventually giving in, she descended down to go back to her tribe, taking up her place to rest for the night. Staring at the night sky wasn't going to bring the horizon any closer.
If I can't bring it closer to me, I must get closer to it.
She couldn't bring the horizon to her, but she could defy her elders and go to it alone. A thought she hadn't had before was to abandon the tribe, go against her family and fly into uncertainty, but the yearning to know what was beyond the horizon grew stronger every day and she couldn't ignore it any longer. Looking around at everyone sleeping, she felt saddened to leave them, but this wasn't something they will ever understand and though she loved all of them, she'd made up her mind.
When the ship comes again tomorrow, she would go to it without a word to the rest, and finally, find out what's beyond.
The next morning when she woke after a restless night, she went straight up to the canopy again and waited. The rest of the group left her alone, unaware she was to depart possibly forever, and part of that broke her heart but she knew she must stay focused, if she consulted with any of them, she wouldn't have the strength to stay.
All day she waited and stared at the horizon, barely noticing the changing colours throughout the hours passing by. She didn't realize she had fallen asleep and woke up startled. What time was it? The sky was beginning to swirl again with purples, pinks and oranges. Oh no, had she missed it? Frantically she scanned the horizon hoping to see anything, but after minutes passed, nothing came.
Her heart sank, and as she was deciding to give up for the night and try again tomorrow, a small shadow gliding over the horizon caught in her peripheral and she froze with excitement.
This is it. This is it! Almost without thinking, her wings opened, her feathers felt the breeze as it began to build underneath them and her legs skyrocketed her into the air and far above the canopy. She stayed here for a few minutes adjusting to the wind - she'd never been this high above the canopy - then set her sights on the ship and began to fly straight towards it.
It was exhilarating! The strong winds on her face and feathers pushing her harder to stay on course, the high altitude and the open waters below her was the most exposed to the outside world she had ever seen. She didn't look back, but for a moment she thought she heard her tribe back on the island singing for her, instead of holding her back this time though, it ignited her determination and pushed her further forwards towards the ship, still floating on top of the horizon.
After a long while of flying, she became exhausted, the sun had set some time ago and panic was beginning to set in. Why hadn't she reached the ship yet? Why hadn't she made it to the horizon? She'd been flying for longer than she had ever flown before and felt like she had made zero progress. She slowed to hover and take a look around, and realized in horror she could no longer see her island and the horizon was all around her now. Suddenly she became dizzy with disorientation and the wind pushed her a little off her course, or at least she thought it had. She couldn't tell anymore.
Through the dark, she could just see the last few lights of the ship as it float below the horizon and finally, out of her sight. Now what?
The horizon. Keep your eyes on it, just keep your eyes on it and keep going.
Although she tried, her wings continued to get weaker and she couldn't keep going, she knew. Her altitude was dropping and she could see the water getting closer as her wings were giving up but somehow, by the grace of nature a tiny, tiny island mass appeared on her right. This small beacon of saving grace gave her the last bit of strength she needed as she barely made it safely to the bit of land.
It was almost barren, a few palm trees scattered the small sand-covered plain offering little to no shelter. Like a twisted answer to her thoughts, thunder clapped, clouds swirled above and rain poured down in torrential gusts of wind. For a while, she tried to take shelter amid the palm leaves high in the trees. As she scanned the ground around her, she saw an old coconut shell that had been cracked open and dried up, creating a small little shelter, luckily facing away from the winds. She flew down and hopped into the coconut, the sand around was wet but at least it was keeping the rain out.
What had she done? She didn't know where she was, or where she was going. Beginning to feel weak, she also realized she hadn't eaten in a long time, but she had spent her energy for the night and dozed off in the shelter of the coconut shell.
Her dreams were dark, wind and rain were stinging her face and feathers even as she dreamed, she was flying. To where, her dreamself didn't know, but she knew she had to get somewhere. All of a sudden in flight, she noticed a sand crab that had pinched itself onto the end of her wing!
She woke startled to an actual sand crab pinching at her angrily. Wings fluttered, pincers pinched, and stabbed and beaks pecked. Instincts kicked into overdrive and before she knew it, she had something of a meal to sustain herself.
In the morning, she cautiously exited the coconut shell, peeking around to make sure there were no other intruders. The sand had dried but she could see it was scattered with craters from the heavy drops overnight. As she went in search of more food hiding in the sand she came across an upturned opened coconut still holding some of the night's rainfall, just begging her to take a bath in it.
The water was warm from the sun but it felt good to get the sand out of her feathers. She spent the rest of the day hunting for what little food the beach would supply, took more baths, and stared at the vast horizon circling all around her. It would have to wait until the ship comes so she knew which direction to go, or she could end up even further away from land.
She decided to take a nap in the late afternoon so she was rested for the journey that night, packed away as many critters as she could grub up for energy, and waited.
And waited some more...
Finally, the pinks, the purples and the oranges dusted the sky, as it had done every night. It made her feel warmth and longing for her family, she wondered if they worried for her. She also wondered if she had made a huge mistake. The night had been long and rough. Living with a tribe was all she knew, she had been protected by the group and their surroundings from the rough weathers and exposure. She didn't even know how far it would be to get to the ship, how long had she gone to get to here? Panic began to rise in her chest and her eyes darted along the horizon.
She was losing hope, feeling frantic, she wasn't absolutely certain anymore which direction home was, and if the ship didn't come and she became stuck here, what would happen to her?
She began to hop and chirp with worry, the pinks and oranges were beginning to get darker and the ship usually appears by now. Her chest became tight and empty at the same time, she wanted to cry for her family and get back to them, but then she noticed a wavering in the sunset, and a sail emerging over the horizon, like it had every night.
This time though, something was different, she noticed a few more waves in the sunset just behind the ship, and one by one, more ships came, and more. Now she was chirping and hopping with excitement. She had never seen so many before! Puffing her chest, she rocketed herself up into the air and flew straight towards the fleet of ships.
She felt as alive as she had when she first left home, and her doubt began melting away the further she went. Her spirits stayed high for a long while, eyes pinned on the shadows of the ships, but after so long, she couldn't help but notice they didn't look much bigger. Her wings were becoming tired again but she pushed them harder, determined to get to the ships.
Keep going and you'll get there. She kept telling herself, focused only on her task at hand. If she lost focus, she would be lost to the ocean forever.
She had been flying late into the night for hours, physically exhausted and on the verge of tumbling into the deep blue, thunderclaps came crashing around her, snapping her from her daze. She tried to push her wings harder but they resisted and fought against her will. The rain and wind picked up together and soon she was pushing against strong winds and torrential downpour. The winds became harsher and began pushing her up, down, and sideways. She could barely keep on course and glued her eyes to the few lights that were shining from the ships so she didn't completely lose her bearing but after a few minutes, the gusts became violent, sweeping her in loops and circles through the sky, batting her right and left with a force she couldn't contend with.
Her surroundings became a blur, everything was dark and she couldn't determine what was up and what was down. She spent a few minutes in uncontrollable spirals until she finally felt her body falling out of the grips of the terrible winds and before she could get herself upright and in-flight again she focused her eyes on something long and tall speeding towards her, and everything went black.
She woke up to something large softly rubbing her belly, then noticed she was laying on her side, but she was comfortable. She was laying on something soft and very warm, she almost didn't open her eyes, but then survival mode set in, her eyes darted open and she began chirping and hopping aggressively.
"It's okay little guy, you're fine. My face is not so great, but you made it through just fine."
Of course, she couldn't understand the human talking to her, she didn't speak human. But she could hear his tone and for some reason, it calmed her down.
As she looked around, she began to understand where she was.
She'd made it! She crash-landed onto one of the ships!
He gave her some food and water and a bath station, and she knew she could stay safely. A few days went by on the ship and she became the crew's favourite. She didn't know what that meant but she heard it a lot. Those days still didn't bring her any further to more land, she wondered if ships were all there were. Could there really only be her island? Something told her no, the ships were coming from somewhere, and going somewhere surely?
Still, she was happy with her new family. They made sure she was fed and safe during rough weathers, it was a little home travelling across the water. Her little safe haven. Although it did feel strange to her, there were no trees or sand, or anything natural for her to make a real home in, she was happy.
Just as she was adjusting to this new life in a big ship crowded with big humans, her person brought her to the bough and extended his hand and arm, pointing at a sight that made her burst into chirps and hops on his shoulder.
Land! They were approaching land! And beyond the main city crowded around a port, it was lush and green and beautiful. He stayed with her at the bough until they were coming into port, both silently taking in the view.
"Make sure you come down to visit once in a while, yeah?"
She chirped back excited to venture out on this new island but then tilted her head at him, suddenly sad to leave.
"We're back here a lot, you get lonely you come stay on the ship again."
At least understanding the sentiment, she chirped and flitted herself into the air, ready for this new home of hers with a bustling city and vast jungle to explore.
She flew past the port regularly, checking to see if her ship had come home, and he was right, it did return to her like clockwork.
You're a brave one, little guy, risking the life you had for the life you wanted. I think you meant to get caught up in that storm.
She chirped at him, and watched her ship sail back over the horizon, as it did every evening.